Olympus has Risen!
PROS: price (relative to other premium cables with similar wire material), excellent workmanship, very supple and comfortable, fine-tuning of the sound (more natural tonality).
CONS: would like to see more premium hardware options (connectors, splitters, plugs), sound improvement varies depending on pair up.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Manufacturer website: Satin Audio. Available for sale directly from SA.
I’m aware that some people don’t believe in cables and have very strong opinions about it. It’s not my intention to start the argument here, and instead I would like to share what I hear during my testing. Perhaps, I can’t fully explain why there is a change in sound, but I do hear it and don’t believe it’s a placebo effect. What makes sense to me, a metal wire is a material with physical properties of resistivity, conductivity, purity, and unique geometry, all of which put together act as a filter between your source and headphones. Variations of these physical properties can affect the conductivity of analog signal, resulting in a sound change, from a subtle to a more noticeable level. Also, the sound change introduced by a specific cable is not universal because it will depend on the design and the synergy between the source and earphones or headphones.
When it comes to budget cables, I’m a bit skeptical because often it translates into cheap eye-candy wires. Plus, lately I have seen a flood of these releases from companies I never even heard of. Maybe that is a reason why Satin Audio (SA) flew under my radar, and I missed their latest releases from Standard, Titan, and Monster cable series. But it was hard to miss when recently a few of my reviewer friends brought to my attention the new Olympus series from this Vietnamese cable maker, pointing out the price and the wire material.
Not gonna deny it, I was curious to find out what this hype is all about. After contacting Satin Audio and learning more about their products, arrangement was made for a review sample of their flagship Olympus series Athena cable, designed with a mix of Palladium plated Silver and Pure Silver in 8-wire configuration. Now, after spending the last few weeks testing Athena with various IEMs, I would like to share with you what I found.
Unboxing and Accessories.
I don’t know about the packaging of SA entry level cables but have to say that Olympus series had quite a rewarding unboxing experience. It’s obvious they put a lot of thought into it, designing a very colorful artsy sleeve with a cutout in the upper left corner to reveal the company logo printed on the cover of a main packaging box. This was a nice presentation of a premium product, something you wouldn’t be ashamed to showcase on your desk or a bookshelf.
Inside you will find a round travel case made out of soft sheep leather and SA logo stamped on top of it. Included was also a dehumidifier capsule, to keep the moisture out inside the case. You will also find a matching leather organizer strap to keep the cable wires from untangling when not in use. Plus, a warranty card and a company logo sticker. I do like the case a lot.
In comparison to their previous cables using more common Copper, SPC, and hybrid Copper/Silver wires, SA decided to step up with higher purity precious metals in their flagship Olympus series release. This new cable uses SP-OCC Palladium plated Silver and SP-OCC Pure Silver 26awg gauge wires. It is not your typical UP-OCC (ultra-purity Ohno Continuous Cast) wires with 6N purity (6-Nines, 99.99998%). Instead, they went to the next level with SP-OCC (superior-purity Ohno Continuous Cast) and 7N purity (7-Nines, 99.999998%). For the comparison reference, a regular OFC cable has only 4N purity (4-Nines, 99.99%).
Furthermore, these are Type 4 Litz wires with a Kevlar damping core wrapped in extra strands to increase the durability of the cable. The core is surrounded by bundles of multi-sized wire strands, each one coated with insulation layer to protect from oxidation. Outside, you have a new flexible transparent Insulation jacket which lets you get a better glimpse at the wires and makes sure the cable is supple, more comfortable, and less microphonic. The material of this second gen Insulation jacket was carefully selected to make sure it doesn’t harden over time, especially under sweat and weather elements.
I know, for some people all this technical description is meaningless. Regardless if you do or don’t appreciate these details, at least it demonstrates that we are not talking about basic off-the-shelf cable but rather a custom design. And you have more ways to customize it further with a choice of different splitters, over a dozen of connectors, and a dozen of terminations. You can even choose to have a standard 1.2m length or an extended 1.5m (optional).
The cable I received had 8 conductors, SA Carbon splitter, SA 2-pin standard connector, 4.4mm balanced compact termination plug, a small rubber ring used as a chin-slider, and no earhook. The braiding was nice, a bit on a looser side, giving the cable more flexibility. As mentioned already, it was very soft and supple, and with zero microphonics. The aluminum connector housing had red/white (R/L) marking, splitter wasn’t too big or bulky, and the plug was rather compact for 4.4mm and had a comfortable grip.
My only comment here, considering premium nature of this cable design and material, I wish SA would have offered more premium hardware options with Athena. Since SA uses the exact same plugs, connectors, and splitters with their entry level cables, I would have loved for this cable to stand out a bit more. Of course, it’s just a matter of personal taste, and I do realize the price of Athena is half as much as some other similar material cables.